Showing posts from April, 2014

Least Sandpiper

Last week at Fort De Soto I had the opportunity to pretty little Least Sandpiper on the shore of East Beach. This one was pretty cute running around the beach.

Mead Gardens, 4/26/2014

It was another very fun day at Mead Gardens.  A bunch of us were there for the birdwalk with the Orange Audubon Society.  It's always a great time; this time there were probably more than 50 people there, but it didn't seem all that crowded.  The star of the show this morning was a beautiful Magnolia Warbler in breeding plumage.  We don't get that many of these; this one was occasionally cooperative for photos, but you had to be ready. Hesitate a second and he was off to another branch.

In all I believe 13 species of warblers were seen by the time I left:

Ovenbird 4
Worm-eating Warbler 3
Northern Waterthrush 1
Black-and-white Warbler 10
Prothonotary Warbler 1
Common Yellowthroat 4
American Redstart 15
Northern Parula 4
Magnolia Warbler 1
Blackpoll Warbler 12
Black-throated Blue Warbler 8
Palm Warbler (Western) 2
Prairie Warbler 2

The Prothonotary Warbler was in the trees near an Azalea bed--not where you normally look to find them, but I guess this migrant j…

Black Birds at Marl Bed Flats, 4/25/2014

Not all black birds are blackbirds, and not all blackbirds are black. This morning at Marl Bed Flats I saw lots of black birds, and some of them were blackbirds. My favorite blackbird, though, was only partly black, and it's not even called a blackbird; it's called a Bobolink. Bobolinks are blackbirds, and the males are mostly black, but the females aren't. I like the males, though, not so much because they are black blackbirds but because they just plain look funky. It looks like they have their bills on the wrong side of their head--very strange looking to me.  They come though Central Florida usually in late April or early May. This is the earliest I've found them here, though I don't think these are particularly early.

Eastern Meadowlarks are blackbirds that aren't really black birds--at least they're mostly not black.  But they are very fun.  This one grabbed a tasty morsel, a spider, I think, and I believe it's headed to a nest.

And then there ar…

Mead Gardens, 4/18/2014

The last couple days at Mead Gardens have been fantastic.  Yesterday morning I had 9 warbler species, and with the weather we had last night I thought it might be good to try again this morning; after I left someone found a Blue-winged Warbler in the park, so I returned to find him.  In all I had 15 species on the day in the park:
Ovenbird 2 Worm-eating Warbler 3 Northern Waterthrush 1 Blue-winged Warbler 1Black-and-White Warbler 6Common Yellowthroat 1 Hooded Warbler 1 American Redstart 3Cape May Warbler 1 Northern Parula 2Blackpoll Warbler 1 Black-throated Blue Warbler 6Palm Warlber 1Prairie Warbler 1Black-throated Green Warbler 1 It was also fun to find a Yellow-throated Vireo, Blue-headed Vireo and a Red-eyed Vireo.  All in all a pretty fun morning.

Marl Bed Flats, 4/16/2014

This morning I got up early and went to Marl Bed Flats, hoping to see some new shorebirds. I had a great time.  I was hoping for a Pectoral Sandpiper, but instead I found my first of the year Solitary Sandpiper.  But my best photos were of a Northern Harrier that flew by pretty close to me and a Lesser Yellowlegs.

The biggest surprise was finding over 40 Black-necked Stilts, including some that were paired off. I'm very hopeful that some will stick around to breed here.
There were also many Barn Swallows and Tree Swallows here, and one Northern Rough-winged Swallow. As I'm sure you know (or can imagine), it's very hard to get nice sharp photos of swallows in flight.  The bottom photo, though, shows the swallow about to capture a bug of some sort. I would have liked to have it a little sharper with a clear view of its eye, and I'd love to have whatever but that is in focus, but I'm still happy with the photo.

Least Tern

Least Terns have returned to Central  Florida.  They're easily my favorite tern, and thankfully they breed here. The best place to find them in Seminole County is at the marina. There were at least ten or or so at the marina at Lake Monroe. There were also about 50 Forster's Terns and 50 Caspian Terns along the side of the marina, which I believe pretty big numbers for this time of year.

Rusty Blackbird

About three weeks ago I was driving home from Alabama and I dropped by a pond in Tallahassee.  I needed a break and decided it would be fun to walk around a small lake, catch some fresh air and see what sights may be seen.  At the far end of the lake, I found my first ever Rusty Blackbird, which was a very nice bonus. This is the first "rare" blackbird I've found.  I've spent my life seeing Red-winged Blackbirds, grackles and Brown-headed Cowbirds, but I've never seen any unusual blackbirds.  So I felt a sense of accomplishment with this one.

Massachusetts Birding

I spent a good portion of last week outside Boston, Massachusetts this past week.  Normally on these trips I have an afternoon or early morning to go some place to do some birding.  On this trip, I was busy enough that I pretty much had to stay right on campus.  There were probably many species that would have been relatively easy to find here that are difficult if not impossible to find in Florida, but I just didn't have the time to chase them.  I did however, walk around the campus in the mornings to see what I could find, and I was more successful than I thought I would be. I ended up with my best photos of several species that are hard to find in Central Florida, including Song Sparrow, White-throated Sparrow, White-breasted Nuthatch, and eastern Black-capped Chickadee.

White-throated Sparrows are very common in MD, but when I lived up there I didn't do much bird photography. Before this past week, I had one photo of this species shot through a window pane with a crappy l…

Glaucous Gull

A few days ago I drove up to Daytona Beach in the afternoon to look for gulls.  An Iceland Gull and a Glaucous Gull had been seen the day before, and we were hoping to find them.  The Iceland Gull eluded us, but the Glaucous Gull was very easy to find near a headless Herring Gull.  This bird has come much farther south than it should have, but I'm not complaining.

Well, there were other birds there too, though not as many as there were a few weeks ago, when it was estimated that 60,000 gulls were lining the shoreline every evening.  I suspect that when we were there, there were well less than 5,000 gulls along the 1.5 mile stretch of beach that we walked.

And there were even a few shorebirds around, mostly Willets, Black-bellied Plovers, Ruddy Turnstones, and Sanderlings.

White-faced Ibis

Who would have thought that a White-faced Ibis would show up in little ole' Seminole County? A few get seen in Florida every winter, and sometimes within an hour's drive of my house, but I've never actually chased any of the sightings. This is partly because of the timing (sometimes I'm just unable to get away), and partly because my color blindness.  The differences between a White-faced Ibis and a Glossy Ibis can be so subtle that I've doubted that I would ever be able to be certain I found the right bird.  Generally speaking, unless it is in breeding plumage, to ID a White-faced Ibis, you need to see its red eye and grey bill, since a Glossy Ibis has a dark eye with a brown bill. I figured I'd never be able to see the differences with red-green colorblindness.  But a friend of mine found a young White-faced Ibis about 15 minutes from my home. It's a first year bird, but it has a bright red eye, grey bill, thick white streaking on the head (a good indica…

Fish Crows: Egg Thieves

Crows are smart, and because of this I'm somewhat fascinated with them.  They're not particularly attractive birds, but they have a lot of ingenuity. I've read stories of crows working together to steal food from gulls. One crow comes up behind the gull and pulls a tail feather, distracting the gull.  When the gull looks away, the other crow steals the food.  That's some smarts.  But this aspect of crow behavior I'm not so fond of--they are exceptional at stealing eggs.  I'm told they're particularly good at stealing eggs from wading birds, since most are colonial nesters.  Crows have learned how to return to the scene of the crime and steal even more eggs. The other day I photographed these fish crows with some egg they had stolen. I have no idea what kind of egg this is. And to me, this egg looks a bit too large for the crow to carry in its bill. But somehow it must have managed.  They know how to crack it open and take the yoke out of the egg. In one ph…

Osprey With Fish

The fishermen weren't catching anything, but the Osprey were.  This one was sitting perched on a post near the shore of Lake Monroe mocking the fishermen.  It was a sorry sight, really. The fishermen couldn't come close to the skill of the Osprey. Well, they weren't alone in their Osprey-jealousy, since apparently the Bald Eagles weren't catching anything either. Well, I'm sure they could, but they must have figured it would be easier just to steal fish from the Osprey. One eagle was farther out on lake Monroe chasing another Osprey with its fish. Eventually that Osprey resorted to dropping his fish to end the harassment from the eagle.  But this Osprey was happy and content, facing away from the lake and the gaze of eagles, his catch also likely hidden from view.  I don't know if that was intentional, but I like to think that it was.


Photographers sometimes shy away from photos like this.  I call them field guide shots.  The bird is doing nothing, just standing in full profile, but you can see everything about the bird that helps you identify it.  As photographers, we often want action shots, interesting poses, or at least something that makes the photo stand out from the million other Killdeer photos that have been taken.  I sympathize with these desires, but I also like having at least one good field guide photo per species.  This one was taken a little over a week ago at Central Winds Park.  There's nothing to make this photo stand out, but I still just like it.

Chickadee Irruption in Central Florida!

Here in Central Florida we've grown accustomed to having an easy time identifying chickadees. If you see one, it's a Carolina Chickadee.  But this is no longer the case, as there has been a massive irruption of northern and western species of chickadees into Central Florida.  The irruption was first noticed when the above photographed Chestnut-sided Chickadee was spotted in a park near my home in Seminole County. After this, birders here began giving chickadees more attention, and all of the sudden, people were starting to find Black-capped Chickadees in various locations throughout Central Florida, such as the one photographed below.

There have been confirmed reports of Mountain Chickadees on Sugarloaf Mountain and one unconfirmed sighting of a Boreal Chickadee in Winter Springs!  This is a staggering reality to be faced with.  Who would think that we would ever be able to find these species in Central Florida!
Not only this, but it seems that some strange mutations are modi…